Alabama’s tournament push starts against Texas A&M

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Alabama’s tournament push starts against Texas A&M

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

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Alabama is looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season by capturing a road win against Texas A&M on Tuesday night. The Crimson Tide (15-10, 6-6 SEC) is coming off one of its worst losses of the season, a 71-53 shellacking by Florida at home on Saturday. Here’s what you need to know before the Crimson Tide takes on the Aggies:

Emphasis on energy

Alabama’s severe lack of energy contributed to its blowout loss to Florida. After the game, coach Avery Johnson even mentioned that he might have to trick his players into believing they’re playing a top-25 team every game in order to drum up more passionate play.

John Petty Jr. promises that the Crimson Tide will take the court with a renewed sense of vigor against Texas A&M, even if the Aggies are in the lower half of the SEC standings.

“I know every guy that’s in that locker room and I know what we’re capable of doing,” Petty said.” Sometimes you have days like that and I guess Saturday was our day, but I guarantee you that you’ll see a whole ’nother team come out tomorrow.”

Looking past the record

The Crimson Tide has posted an impressive 3-1 record against teams ranked in the top 25 this season. It’s been unranked teams that have given Alabama trouble. The Aggies are currently 10-14 overall and 3-9 in the SEC.

Another close game?

 The last two times Alabama and Texas A&M have met on the hardwood, the game was decided by a buzzer beater, with each team claiming a miracle victory. The Crimson Tide defeated the Aggies on Collin Sexton’s last-second shot in the SEC tournament last season. Texas A&M got revenge earlier this year when TJ Starks hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation for the win.

In the minds of Alabama’s players, it was a lucky shot.

“We feel like if you make a fade away bank-shot off the glass with the time running out, I don’t think you’ll make that nine times out of ten,” Petty said. “It’s also back on us because we had a lead and we blew it.”

But coach Johnson views it differently.

“We put ourselves in that position,” Johnson said. “They made a great shot. I guess they probably feel the same way about Collin’s shot in the tournament last year so whether it’s luck or what about if we do what we need to do on both ends of the floor to put ourselves in position to win the lucky game.”

The last two meetings between Alabama and Texas A&M represent just how close the series has been in recent years. In six of the last seven games between the teams, a single possession has decided the outcome.

The road ahead

Alabama’s NCAA tournament future got a little murkier after its losses to Mississippi State and Florida last week. However, CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm still has the Crimson Tide as an 11 seed in the big dance. He also has Alabama listed “on the bubble.” For the Crimson Tide, it’s not an unfamiliar position.

“We’re kind of in the same spot we were in last year, but we can have a better outcome than we did,” Petty said.

In order to solidify its position in the tournament, Alabama will need to close out the last six games of the regular season strong. While Alabama’s next three opponents (Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, South Carolina) are not tournament-caliber teams, the three teams after them (LSU, Auburn, Arkansas) are, with LSU projected as a three seed.

“We’re in control of our own destiny,” Johnson said. “Whatever quadrant teams we are playing, we better perform like they’re all quadrant one teams and maybe have the mindset like they’re all ranked teams because we’ve just got to play with a little bit more sense of urgency.”

Injury update

The injury update is that there are no injuries to update. Even though Herb Jones missed a chunk of Alabama’s loss to Florida after getting hit in the head, he is at full health and is expected to play against Texas A&M.

Alabama’s game against Texas A&M will tipoff at 8 p.m. CT. It will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.